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Canadian Shakin'

Montreal-Based Nouveau Dandy/Producer/DJ Tiga has Gone Global, but he Still Hasn't Cracked the States

By Tony Ware | Posted 2/26/2003

"Some people create characters that have nothing to do with them but serve a purpose," DJ/producer Tiga says from his Montreal home. "Like a method actor. Then some create characters that are who they wish they were. I think, for me, the image people get is more an exaggeration. It's not that different, that crazy--it's a subtle magnification of ways I am, tendencies I have."

Enjoying a rare reprieve from a grueling touring schedule, Tiga and his image--most recently seen as a glam Pantone reproduction lying on a plush couch on the cover of his volume in !K7's DJ-Kicks series--aren't that difficult to reconcile. On the cover, Tiga is propped on his elbows and looking out of frame, but it's hard to determine whether he's settling or stirring. He looks a little on edge.

His already decade-long career speaks to that restlessness. The ambitious 29-year-old got empire-building out of his system early. He threw some of Canada's earliest raves, owned DNA Records and the Sona nightclub, and founded the Turbo label (the Montreal home to the likes of Fred Everything and the Märtini Brös.). Along the way he also managed to build quite a reputation.

"Guys like Tiga, when you hear him DJ, you hear old school, new school, and futuristic colliding together," Chicago house DJ/producer Felix da Housecat said in the March 2003 issue of Urb. "[T]here were a lot of artists producing with attitude, and we identify with Chicks on Speed, Miss Kittin and the Hacker, Tiga," Ladytron's Reuben Wu said in a recent City Paper article.

Tiga, meanwhile, can identify with the struggles Felix and Ladytron have faced by having their music so closely associated with electroclash.

"The main purpose I see in creating characters isn't so much manipulation for press as it is a means of survival," Tiga says. "Of keeping yourself interested and establishing enough mystery and distance to keep yourself sane. Yet I don't like to make it too complicated. I'm not Fischerspooner with crazy live shows. When it comes to photos, it's make yourself look good. When it comes to interviews and press and the opportunity to write things, keep things interesting. The difference with the electroclash thing is that when there's more column inches than music, there's a problem.

"I shouldn't bite the hand that's fed," he continues. "And it really doesn't bother me much being dumped in with that movement because it's inevitable. I'm not so vain that I think there's something in me immediately transcending genre. When Nirvana came out they were a grunge band. But if you're good enough, time is the test, and Kurt Cobain is now seen as an artist, not just a member of a grunge band."

Tiga's DJ-Kicks further fleshes out his image within U.S. borders, which is, considering his proximity, surprisingly unconquered territory for him. He considers Berlin a second home and has long toured Europe, establishing strong associations with labels, including DJ Hell's Munich-based International DeeJay Gigolos, and clubs across the continent.

Tiga's DJ-Kicks draws from all these facets of his travels and personality. It's a well-lubricated segue of 24 tracks, including three of Tiga's own, pulling together transatlantic electropop, robofunk, and the polished peck of techno into a solid set of tech-house thump featuring Adult, Playgroup, Chromeo, Swayzak, and Black Strobe. It's not just pumping precision with which Tiga mixes, but also maturity.

Tiga exhibits a time-honed ear for continuity that makes tracks sound updated, not dated, as newer tracks imbued with the lustful allure of retro-fitted rhythms contrast with vintage productions. For example, the DFA remix of Le Tigre's "Deceptacon" rubs up against a 1982 Soft Cell B-side, both set to complementary rigid claps and bouncy bob. The two tracks are separated by nearly 20 years, but they work together because they share a common foundation that speaks of and to a subculture, not pop-culture references. No matter what day it is, there's always nightlife.

DJ-Kicks is refreshingly pruned of clichés and given an open-ended shelf life by Tiga wisely not leaning toward what is overvalued now. What you won't find on DJ-Kicks are any of Tiga's recent cover songs, such as Nelly's "Hot in Herre" and the quarter-million-selling single "Sunglasses at Night," first made popular by fellow Canadian Corey Hart.

"What happened with 'Sunglasses at Night,' it's a crazy once-in-a-lifetime magical thing," Tiga says. "Anytime you do something for a half-hour in your bedroom and it goes global, you can't plan it. You can just count yourself fortunate. I don't know what will happen, but it feels like I've just now had that foot in the door. I've just been lucky my tastes and image and decisions are hitting it off really well with the public. The momentum is building. A lot of it has to do with not taking yourself too seriously, just having fun with what you're doing. A sense of humor is very important, not to hide behind, but to give you a back-door escape route. But I want to do more serious stuff.

"I consider myself young as an artist," Tiga continues. "I'm just starting to explore some things now, and what I consider to be my greatest asset is my confidence. I'm naive and confident wrapped in one, not afraid to make mistakes or of which category I fall in. So now I look forward to dealing with what life has thrown at me and I hope to cope in an interesting way."

Tiga spins at Sonar Lounge Feb. 28.

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